Martin Nicholson, 3rd Dan
- I was fortunate recently to
once again have the opportunity to train in the "original
weapons system of Okinawa" with my good friend
Sensei Martin Nicholson, 3rd Dan, of the Ryukyu Kobudo
Tesshinkan. One of the very few Canadian kobudo
practitioners ever to train in Okinawa at the Hombu Dojo
directly under Sensei Tamayose Hidemi, "Kyoshi",
8th Dan, Okinawan Ken Karate Do Rengo Kai, Sensei
Nicholson graciously imparted a wide range of information
and techniques to all those who attended his seminar.
- To give you a brief history
of Okinawan kobudo, Taira Shinken (1897-1970) established
the "Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinko Kai", (Ancient
Weapons Promotion and Preservation Society) in 1955, and
upon his death in 1970, Sensei Akamine Eisuke (1925-1999)
his senior student, inherited the leadership of the
Tamayose Hidemi, "Kyoshi", 8th Dan
- In 1982 Tamayose
Sensei began studying directly under Akamine Sensei at
the Hozon Shinko Kai Hombu Dojo. As one of the senior
students Tamayose Sensei was ranked Nana Dan, 7th Dan, by
Akamine Sensei and Hatchi, 8th Dan, by the Okinawa Ken
Karate Do Rengo Kai, and he served as the Chairman of the
Board of Directors until the death of Akamine Sensei in
Sensei, in order to perpetuate Ryukyu Kobudo in the
manner he had been taught by Akamine Sensei, formed the
"Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan" on May 22, 1999.
- Our training began, as is
so often the case in any seminar, with basics. Tonight it
was to be basics for the bo and the sai. Both of these
weapons have a long established history in Okinawan
kobudo, and while many of the katas and basics that are
taught throughout the world today may have had their
roots in Okinawan kobudo, there is in reality very little
remaining similarity to the basic techniques found in the
"original weapons system of Okinawa" as taught
by the Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan, and the bo and sai katas
taught in most western dojos today. The reason for this
lies in several key factors, four of which were discussed
during the two hour seminar.
- Today if you watch a North
American version of a recognized Okinawan bo kata for
example, a students main focus will very often be on
speed instead of technique. Using a very light weight bo
to aid them in performing quick flashy movements that are
often performed while in a very high stances this type of
kata has little in common with true Okinawan kobudo. In
reality the original Okinawan bo kata would have embodied
strong hip rotation, and powerful strikes and blocks, all
of which require a deep rooted stance. Speed is
secondary, quality definitely comes first. As a result
the Okinawan version of any weapons kata will take far
longer to complete than a North American version of the
same kata, but when the kata is performed by a qualified
practitioner the quality, purpose, and power of each
movement is unmistakeable.
- The first
key lies in the use of the hips.
Nicholson watches closely as Sensei Holland practices.
- In Okinawan kobudo great
emphasis is placed on the correct use of proper hip
rotation, and this was evident right from the very start
of Sensei Nicholson's seminar. One of the first things
that became evident during the seminar was the difference
between Okinawan kobudo and the kind of kobudo that is
most often seen here in the West.
- The second
key lies in a strong pulling hand.
Curtis Lindsay and Sempai Diane Holland practice striking.
- In many of today's dojos
the embusen of the more popular Okinawan bo katas bears
only slight resemblence to the original kata and more
often than not the proper use of hips in tandem with
basic blocks and strikes is long gone. Watch the bo katas
performed at any grading or tournament today and almost
every strike or block is delivered with the physical and
mental effort being placed primarily on the lead hand. In
fact the exact opposite is what is required for maximum
effectiveness. It is very important to remember that when
using a bo all of the power must be concentrated in the
pulling hand, while the lead hand acts primarily as a
directional guide adding supplemental kime at the final
instant of the technique by way of the proper rotational
position of the front hand.
- For instance, when striking
downward the lead hand must be fully rotated so that the
first two knuckles are facing upward - not to the ground
as is so often the case. If the strike, however, was from
the right side to the left side as was the case in the
photo above then the thumb would be upper most and the
knuckles would be facing towards the right side of the
body as shown here. Strength lies not only in a strong
pulling hand, but also in knowing which way the hands
should be facing at the moment of impact.
- The third
key lies in the grip.
Colleen Nicholson shows good form and a solid grip.
- When you look around at
other students practicing their basics notice how they
grip the bo. More often than not they will be holding it
lightly, perhaps at some point with only their finger
tips, often they may be seen thrusting forward to strike
while at the same time pointing their index finger
forward along the top of the bo. In either case immediate
correction is necessary since just as a properly closed
fist is fundamental to Shotokan karate, a strong closed
grip is fundamental to Okinawan kobudo. There are
exceptions of course, such as when transferring the
weapon from hand to hand, but for the most part a solid
closed grip is required at all times.
- The fourth
key lies in balance.
- Ian Elder
counters a bo attack using a sai.
- Proper posture equates to
proper balance. Regardless of what weapon you are
training with one of the main keys to success in kobudo
lies in establishing proper balance before, during, and
after an attacking or defensive movement.
- It is not enough to have
good technique alone. The slightest error in posture or
weight distribution can often cause an attacker to find
themselves badly over extended and out of position as
seen in the photo above, thus making any defensive
counter measure much slower than normal and far less
effective as well. So remember, do your kobudo from the
ground up not the top down, and make good posture your
- As with all good seminars
this one went by far to quickly as everyone who attended
will attest, but regardless of their rank or their past
kobudo experience each student went home with a new
appreciation of what goes into making good Okinawan
- Our sincere
thanks to Sensei Martin Nicholson
- and all of
his students for a great evening.
- Part the
clouds - see the way.
objective of kobudo is to contribute to the evolution
- of the
human spirit through physical and mental training."